• Matt Esnayra

JP23 delays Long Beach grand opening amid drugging & sexual assault claims at Fullerton location

Samantha Velasquez, a 22-year-old student, alleges she was drugged at a Fullerton nightclub and later sexually assaulted in a nearby parking structure. Her story went viral and would ignite an outcry by multiple women claiming they had similar experiences at the bar.

Driving the news:

Velasquez told the Fullerton Observer, a local newspaper, that on Sunday, Aug 1, she went to JP23 alone to meet with a friend and that they were approached by two girls when a man bought her, her friends, and the newly befriended girls' drinks.

  • "I went to the bathroom. That was when I left my drink unattended. I got into a little altercation with one of the girls. She kept banging on the bathroom door yelling for me to let her in. [When I came back] I finished my drink. That is when I think I was drugged."

  • According to Velasquez, she awoke on the second level of the SoCo parking complex.

  • Fullerton's City Assistant Analyst Anissa Livas told the Observer that the cameras in the parking structure had been inactive for some time.

  • Velasquez told Fox 11 that there were multiple bruises on her body, that her leggings were ripped, and after a rape kit was conducted, found Velasquez suffered blunt trauma.

  • Velasquez said she tracked her phone to a city maintenance vehicle.

Where things stand:

Velasquez's Instagram post went viral, causing a firestorm online with multiple women taking to social media, especially on JP23's Yelp page, to share their experience of being either drugged or sexually assaulted.

  • One person going by the name, Chloe C., wrote on Yelp, "My boyfriend's sister got roofied. Everyone be aware of this place especially if you are a female!!!!"

  • Another Yelp reviewer named Brittany D. wrote, "Absolutely terrifying place for anyone. Stay away. Horrible people attempt to drug people's drinks and rape them. They going to dump your body after they assault you."

  • A man told MTLB that he wrote on JP23's Facebook page his wife believes she was drugged at the bar but says the post was later removed off the page.

  • A woman named Lisette wrote on her Twitter page, "It’s crazy to see all of this news about JP23, one time when Celeste and I went some guy was harassing the fuck out of us, and we brought it to the security’s attention and he was like “well that’s what you came for, right?”

  • Since Velasquez went public, there was a protest outside JP23 almost every weekend, with demonstrators holding signs, yelling in bullhorns, and demanding the bar be shut down.

  • Protesters claimed 30+ people had come forward with stories that they too were drugged and sexually assaulted.

  • Fullerton Police told ABC 7 they are "aware of the concerns surrounding an alleged sexual assault in the downtown Fullerton area," and that "Detectives have actively been investigating the incident since the report was received earlier this week."

JP23's response:

JP23 released footage from a security camera that reportedly shows Velasquez stumbling and dancing with a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt. The unknown man didn't appear to be intoxicated and was seen in the video leaving with Velasquez. The video has since been removed, per the Fullerton Observer.

  • Jacob Poozhikala, the owner of JP23, told the Observer that he was suing Velasquez for defamation.

  • Mr.Poozhikala also stated that the hostess, whom Velasquez has identified as a victim of sexual assault in interviews, is now suing, claiming that the narrative she relayed in confidence did not occur at JP23.

JP23's statement on the allegations:

Why it matters:

Last Friday, JP23 planned to open a new location in Downtown Long Beach, previously Cohiba nightclub above the 7-11 at Pine and Broadway, with a grand opening performance from Xzibit.

  • JP23 hasn't provided a new date and time of its grand opening.

  • A protest is planned to occur at the Long Beach location on Pine.

Screengrab of JP23's Instagram

What she's saying:

MTLB talked with Samantha during a protest outside of JP23 on Aug 7

  • Has JP23 reached out to you? "They have not reached out to me, but they have been posting about me. That I looked sober walking out, I was with friends. I remember walking into JP23 alone, so for them to say that I walked in with friends is not true... I told the police I was completely blacked out; I don't remember anything."

  • Velasquez questions JP23's security video: "First of all, the time was blurred out in part of the video, it was only a portion of it, and that portion is when I was blacked out. They didn't [show the video] from beginning to end when they poured the drinks or when the guy in the Hawaiian shirt approached me. They didn't show any of that. It's very suspicious."

  • Do you think JP23 is just protecting themselves? "Yes. Definitely"

  • What has been your response from the public to your story? "It's amazing… that the whole community can come together and spread awareness that this place [ JP23] is not safe to go. Especially, if you're having drinks… I'm so happy [ for the public's support] because I know I'm not the only one."

  • What was your reaction to your post going viral and other women having similar stories? "It's crazy, At first, I didn't even want to involve the police [but] my mom was the one who reached out to the bar that night, when she found out what happened. It was a hostess and she said that the managers couldn't speak with my mom, even though this incident occurred [at JP23] but they're aware what's going on and there's nothing they can do," after Velasquez's mother called JP23, she checked its reviews and saw that others shared similar experiences of being roofied or sexually assaulted or even both. "That's how we found out [ about other claims] and that's how it went viral."

  • What's the outcome you're looking for? "I definitely want this place to shut down, this has been going on way too long. I've heard stories from back in 2016 and its 2021. This is not ok, even if they switched owners, it's still hasn't changed."

  • Do you think it's the culture? "Exactly"

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